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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Vacancy on Supreme Court 2016 - Applicants’ Law Schools, Grades, and Class Rank

The following commentary is from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Professor Joel Schumm.

It has become a tradition here on the ILB to report the law school grades and class rank of applicants. First on the list of statutory “considerations” for each member of the judicial nominating commission to weigh in evaluating Supreme Court applicants is “Legal education, including law schools attended and education after law school, and any academic honors and awards achieved.” Ind. Code § 33-27-3-2(a)(1).

Question 3 on the application form directed candidates: “List all law schools, graduate schools, and post-J.D. programs attended. Include the school name; dates enrolled; degree or certificate earned; class rank; and any academic honors, awards, or scholarships you received and when.”

The second part of the question instructed: “Include with your original application a certified transcript from each school named in Subsection 3A, and attach copies of each transcript to each application copy.”

As in prior years, some applicants disclosed GPA and class rank on their applications while others did not. Although the applications are posted online, the transcripts may only be reviewed in person.

The following chart, which was compiled by reviewing both the applications and the transcripts, is sorted by GPA and offered with the caveat that grading practices at some law schools have changed over the years.

Excluded from the chart are applicants who attended law school that did not award conventional grades or calculate GPAs on a 4.0 scale. These include Mr. Rusthoven (magna cum laude) and Ms. Wyle (cum laude), who both attended Harvard Law School. Ms. Wyle’s transcript included the following notation:

Until fairly recently, Valparaiso used numeric scores and did not calculate traditional GPAs. Thus, excluded from the chart are Mr. Chipman, Judge Gull, and Mr. Lienhoop. Mr. Chipman’s application notes a class rank of 26/82, and Mr. Lienhoop’s was 10/82. Mr. Shean, who attended Loyola-Los Angeles, is also excluded because of non-conventional grades; his application lists class rank as 117/334.

Do Grades Matter?

At a 2012 IBA Young Lawyers Division Luncheon, Judge Tim Oakes asked rhetorically when was the last time a summa or magna cum laude law school graduate was chosen through merit selection. The answer would appear to be Justice Ted Boehm, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School who was appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court by Governor Bayh in 1996.

Here are links to the grades of applicants for the 2010 and 2012-1 and 2012-2 Supreme Court vacancies.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 17, 2016 09:03 AM
Posted to Vacancy on Supreme Court - 2016